Shovels, Bat, Gun Used in Property Line Squabble
Posted October 18, 2007
Dunn, N.C. — Fences may make good neighbors, but one tree line in Dunn has marked a feud that has included a battle with shovels, swings of a bat and a drawn gun.
"There's more ways to hurt a person than just getting on him and beating him half to death," said Warren Strickland, who has been at war with Willis Hodges for the past decade.
Strickland, 75, said he's angry because Hodges, 67, never paid him for clearing Hurricane Fran debris from their yards in 1996. Strickland estimates that he is owed about $750, but Hodges said he doesn't owe his neighbor a dime because he hired a company to clean his yard.
After the hurricane, Hodges planted a row of trees along the property line between his home and Strickland's, but they have blossomed into an escalation of hostilities between the neighbors.
Strickland recently dug a hole next to one tree, and when Hodges tried to fill the hole, the two men went at each other with shovels.
"I won't lie to you. I was trying to hurt him. Oh yeah, I will hurt eventually. ... That's a promise," said Strickland, who added that he also whacked Hodges with a baseball bat during the altercation.
"From that, we went to the hospital and got sewed up and everything," he said.
Hodges maintained Strickland is trying to kill the trees, but Strickland denied the allegation.
“I don’t care if the tree dies or not,” he said. "I was doing that more or less to intimidate him."
Strickland said he once pulled a gun on his neighbor as well.
"If he had provoked me, I would have used it, too," he said.
Both men have brought assault with a deadly weapon charges against the other, and they are scheduled to appear in court next week.
Dunn Police Chief B.P. Jones said his officers have responded to dozens of calls from the neighbors over the years, calling the dispute “a senseless argument."
“We have to go out there to keep them from killing each other,” Jones said. “Other than that, there’s not much we can do. It’s a civil matter.”
But the chief did offer a piece of advice to the feuding neighbors.
"(I wish they would) grow up and act their age and let the trees grow," he said.